The Role of Oxytocin in Maternal-Fetal Bonding and Social Interaction
Oxytocin is a small peptide usually associated with its effects in the reproductive system such as induction of labour and lactation. However, recent evidence has indicated that oxytocin plays an important role in social behaviour in mammals, including humans. This review article outlines the basics of the role of oxytocin in parental-fetal bond formation and pair-bonding. Social recognition forms the basis of all social interaction and therefore the role of oxytocin in recognition is also discussed. Most studies done as of yet have been conducted of mammals such as prairie voles and rats. However, there has been some evidence which shows that similar mechanisms occur in humans. Pair-bonding and parent-fetal bond formation have very similar mechanisms and oxytocin plays an important role in both For both processes to occur, there needs to be social recognition and memory of the infant or the partner, both of which are aided by oxytocin and other neurotransmitters, especially arginine vasopressin (AVP) and dopamine. Moreover, once the bond has been established, oxytocin plays a role in persistence of the bond even in the absence of the fetus/parent or the partner. There are similarities between the behaviour and mechanisms of social bonding and addiction, therefore oxytocin could play a future role in treatment of social diseases, such as autism and addiction.
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